I never cheered for Australia. I almost always hated them. I hated the way they used to make India surrender down under. I almost wept when in the 2003 world cup final, Ricky Ponting singlehandedly beat Dada’s team mercilessly. I felt so helpless when Matthew Hayden would buldgeon sixes after sixes, when Adam Gilchrist would come in at five down for 100 and almost everytime hit a century even on Indian pitches. I used to silently watch in disappointment McGrath and Brett Lee and even the side hero Gillespie make Indian batsmen surrender so completely, so brutally.
Of course I cheered for India. I will remember the majestic 281 by Laxman forever. That moment still gives me goosebumps as for the first time India took a raging bull by horn and fought it instead of surrendering meekly as it would do earlier. A fight which subsequently became the team’s culture and which now every player carries. I danced as Ishant made Ponting dance to his deliveries in Australia. I was elated when Dravid and Laxman would score double centuries and centuries in almost every test in the Australia in perhaps 2004. I rose to cloud nine when Sachin would dance down and hit Warne for sixes over his head…
But overall, Australia always outmatched India. More often than not I would watch India surrendering to – better players. Out of desperation, I would support anyone who would stand upto Aussies. I used to find solace in their victories against the Aussies and feel sad when they lost. So perhaps I cheered for Cook more than I cheered for Sachin down under. I was perhaps as frustrated as Klusner when Alan Donald ran himself out. I shouted so loud a NO when Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh that night. I felt so happy when the Proteas chased down 438…
Ohhh.. I hated the Aussies. I hated them coz they were a class apart. I hated them coz they would beat everyone everywhere – a mark of true champion. I hated them coz they were legends. Yet I don’t know when my hate also turned into a respect. For the same reasons, I also respected them. I always put Ponting above Sachin and today rate Smith higher than Kohli in the best batsmen debates. Of course in bowling there has never been any match.
I don’t know when my envy turned into admiration and admiration turned into awe. I realise I am an Aussie fan despite my hate. They were just so brilliant. The baggy green – it carries with itself the pride vested into it by generations of champions – men who played it fair and hard.
But today, I am heartbroken. Perhaps as much as on that fateful 2003 final. Perhaps even more. Smith had no right. He had no right to so recklessly abuse the baggy green. He has hurt not just me – but millions of fans across the globe and all the legends who once wore it before him. He has no place among the legends. He doesn’t deserve it. That cheat!!!